Literacy Blocks that Truly Fit it All In

I’m a big fan of the Peleton.  It’s a huge part of my self-care routine.  The instructors are amazing, the music is fantastic, and there’s a huge variety of workouts so I’m never bored.  But there’s another reason I love it:  the motivational phrases the instructors often use.  Yes, they’re primarily meant to rev people up in the face of a sweaty workout.  But they always, always tie to life, too.  Teaching, in particular.

Today I’m sharing one of those quotes, from Robin Arzon, during a particularly tough tabata ride.  It was something to the effect of “stop thinking of it as one day, and start thinking of it as day one.”

Sooooo good, right?

Immediately, I thought about teaching literacy.  Yes, because I’m a complete nerd.  But also because of all the “one day” phrases I’ve heard a lot (and have said myself) when it comes to fitting it all in:

  • One day, I’ll be able to fit in more small groups
  • One day, I’ll have more time for stronger read alouds
  • One day, I’ll be able to confer with kids
  • One day, I’ll have more time to teach writing
  • One day, it won’t take me so long to plan lessons.  
  • One day, I’ll be better at teaching ELA
  • One day, I won’t go home feeling like I didn’t get it all done

That’s a lot of “one days.”  Which means it’s a lot of just wishing.  And wishing, without action, does nothing more than leave you spinning your wheels.  It’s futile.

There has always been so much to get to in the literacy day. Today, there’s also a whole lot of push for including “Science of Reading” in your day.  This is a misinterpretation of the term, and often it leads to overdoing phonics to the neglect of other critical things, like authentic work in the writing process.  

Fitting SoR into your day simply means that what needs to happen is that vocabulary, fluency, foundational skill work (like phonics), and deep comprehension work are in all place.  Things most of us are already doing. But it’s also fitting in small group work, time for writing, independent reading and writing, strategy instruction, and building background knowledge.  Annnnndddd “we do” practices, like shared reading and interactive writing that are so important for student learning.  Research supports all of it.  We have to fit it all in.

This is why, if you’re a literacy teacher, you’re often left with a headache wishing that one day, it’ll get easier.  Because right now, it seems impossible to fit it all in.  The day is just too short and there are just too many student needs.

But there is a way to fit it all in.

A very practical, simple-to-implement way.  A way that truly works. 

So let’s stop saying “one day,” and take Robin’s advice.  Let’s take control.  Let’s start by declaring that it’s day one.  Day one of ending that overwhelmed, I-can’t-fit-it-in feeling.  Day one of finally creating time and space to teach, confer, and meet kids in small groups.  Day one of cutting down the time it takes to plan lessons.  Day one of finally, finally fitting it all in.

Day one of leaving at the end of the day knowing your literacy instruction was powerful and truly made the reading-writing connection for kids. Of feeling like you are in full control of your time, rather than feeling like your time is controlling you.


By no longer calling it a “reading” block or a “writing” block and instead combining the two and just teaching literacy.  Reading and writing, in one lesson rather than two.  

I first learned about this possibility from Ellin Oliver Keene’s The Literacy Studio.  That led me down a long path of figuring out how to make it work.  Since then, I’ve read a lot more books and a lot of articles, and have experimented with it in multiple grade levels at my own school.  

And man, it works.

Not only does it solve all the “one day issues,” it also connects reading and writing for kids in a way that separate lessons never will.  It strengthens both reading and writing skills–something we’re all looking to do.  

Frankly, it just makes sense.

“If you want better reading scores, the science of reading says do not neglect writing, nor dispatch it to someplace else in the curriculum. When you feel especially pressured to improve reading achievement, that is the time to embrace more tightly the combination of reading and writing.”

Tim Shanahan, February 23, 2017 blog post

There’s only one thing that can hold you back.


Shifting to a combination literacy model is really a shift in mindset.  The lesson planning is not what will be the biggest hurdle. It’s wrapping your mind around doing it in a way you haven’t done it before. But once you’re past that, the outcomes are incredible–for both yourself and for students.

Where do you start? Here are some tips:

  1. Let go of the ridiculous notion that reading and writing must be taught separately.  Just because it’s always been done that way does NOT mean it always needs to be done that way.
  2. Erase the lines around your reading and writing blocks.  Literally. Remember, it’s literacy. It’s reading and it’s writing.  Call it literacy, call it ELA.  Just don’t name the time blocks as separate.  
  3. It’s all about leveraging your read alouds–they are a gold mine for showing kids reading and writing lessons in one fell swoop.  (I share a lot more about getting a ton of mileage from  interactive read alouds here)
  4. Practice, practice, practice.  Shifting our language from “let me teach you this reading thing” and then “now let me show you this writing thing” to “as a reader, it’s important to….and as a writer, we can do that same thing for our reader by….” in just one lesson is a big mindset shift.  It takes practice–and that means it also takes being ok with not getting it right until you get it right.

Just keep in mind…

I’ll say it again:  this is a mindset shift.  Getting it started is easier for some than for others, and each person will need varying degrees of support.  Know that I’m here for you!  I’m available for 1:1 virtual coaching calls–and I would love to support you in this work!  I’ve seen it work in primary and in intermediate grades.  I’ve seen it work in departmentalized grades.  I’ve seen it work even for those who thought it couldn’t be done (and now they’ll never go back!).  

So if you’re ready to take the advice of Robin Arzon, to finally stop saying “one day…” and instead say “this is day one where I…”  I’m here for you!  Simply email me or send me a DM on Instagram and together, we’ll get your day one underway!

And…if you’d like to baby step into this idea of combining reading and writing, download my FREE GUIDE, where I show you 5 very unique schedules that map out the entire literacy block for you–including this idea of combining reading and writing plus 4 more schedules where I keep it separate, in case you’re not quite ready to take the leap to combining reading and writing entirely.

Who is Coach from the Couch??  I’m Michelle, a 25-year veteran educator, currently a K-5 literacy coach.  I continue to teach and learn alongside teachers in classrooms each and every day, and it’s my mission to support as many teachers just like you as I can. 

Add A Comment